FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – By all accounts, Duke Riley has had a strong training camp and a less-than-perfect preseason debut should not overshadow that.
But Riley did not shy away from admitting he made a few mistakes in the Falcons' 17-0 loss to the Jets in their first preseason game. And don't expect him to dwell on them, either.
"All I'm worried about is today," Riley said Monday before practice. "I've watched film, I went over it and corrected my mistakes. But all I'm worried about is getting better. Today is today and that's all I'm worried about. What happened in the past is the past, so that's all I'm really worried about right now."
After an up-and-down rookie season in which he battled injuries, Riley is among the more interesting players to keep an eye on in the preseason. In 2017 Riley recorded 24 tackles, and he tallied three tackles in the preseason opener.
Notably, though, Jets running back Isaiah Crowell scored the game's first touchdown on a pass he caught just in front of Riley, who was unable to track him down and prevent the score.
The preseason is about learning from mistakes, and one performance in the first exhibition game shouldn't negate what Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said of Riley during the final week of training camp.
"That's where the big jump comes," Quinn said of a player's second year. "You see it with Duke Riley, he's taking off. It will happen, the same thing, with Takk [McKinley] we've seen that jump from him – he's been limited in practice so far. But we saw it from other guys. Last year it happened to be Neal and Deion and De'Vondre, and this year's class is doing the same thing. The [Damontae] Kazees and the Rileys and guys who are going from [year] one to two, they're like whole new players."
During his Saturday conference call Quinn noted that he saw improvement from Riley in his first preseason game, but that he believes there's room for greater improvement because he's seen greater technique in practice.
Riley's work ethic this offseason has drawn praise from the coaching staff, including linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich who said he was "absolutely going for it." Following his first preseason game, Riley's hard work continues.
"Everything," Riley said when asked what he's working on moving forward. "From taking the extra steps to getting back in my coverage, breaking on the quarterback's throws, a lot of stuff. There's a lot of stuff that can be worked on. I've continuously worked on it throughout the past. That was the first preseason game, mistakes will be made … But I'm doing everything humanly possible to improve."